From the Left



It's reprehensible for corporations to exploit this pandemic

By Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

Societies gripped by cataclysmic wars, depressions or pandemics can become acutely sensitive to power and privilege.

Weeks before the coronavirus virus crushed the U.S. stock market, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina apparently used information he gleaned from his role as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee about the ferocity of the coming pandemic to unload 33 stocks held by him and his spouse, estimated at between $628,033 and $1.72 million, in some industries likely to be hardest hit by the global outbreak.

While publicly parroting Trump's happy talk at the time, Burr confided to several of his political funders that the disease would be comparable to the deadly 1918 flu pandemic.

Then the market tanked, along with the retirement savings of millions of Americans.

Even some pundits on Fox News are now calling for Burr's resignation.

When society faces a common threat, exploiting a special advantage is morally repugnant. Call it "Burring." However tolerable Burring may be in normal times, it isn't now.


In normal times, corporations get special favors from Washington in exchange for generous campaign contributions, and no one bats an eye. Recall the Trump tax cut, which delivered $1.9 trillion to big corporations and the wealthy.

Yet the coronavirus should have altered business as usual. The most recent Senate Republican relief package, which would give airlines $58 billion and give billions more to other industries, is pure Burring.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried lamely to distinguish it from the notorious bank bailouts of 2008.

"We are not talking about a taxpayer-funded cushion for companies that made mistakes," McConnell said. "We are talking about loans, which must be repaid, for American employers whom the government itself is temporarily crushing for the sake of public health."


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